Mike Shumann on former teammate Dwight Clark: 'There will never be another 87'

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ByMike Shumann KGO logo
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Mike Shumann hugs Dwight Clark during a San Francisco 49ers game.
Mike Shumann hugs Dwight Clark during a San Francisco 49ers game.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As many of you have heard my former teammate and roommate with the 49ers, Dwight Clark, has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

RELATED: Former 49ers WR Dwight Clark announces he has ALS

He's been dealing it since 2015 when he felt some weakness in his left hand and it has since progressed to both hands, his legs and his back. He wanted to put the information out -- as he was being hounded by media outlets and wanted to keep this to his close circle of friends and family.

The support he has received since has been overwhelming, and I'm sure Dwight appreciates all the love and concern. He also has the support of all his former teammates and this is a Hall of Fame roster. From Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Dwight Hicks and Ronnie Lott, along with former 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo to name a few, and with guys like me.

Dwight and I were teammates from 1979, the year he was drafted, until 1982, the year after we won the team's first Super Bowl title.

He is, of course, known for the most iconic catch not only in 49er history, but in NFL History.

"The Catch," as it's known, led the 49ers to their first of five Super Bowl titles, and if Dwight doesn't make that grab, who knows where this franchise would be today. We battled for the same job, were roommates on the road, and have remained close throughout our post-football careers. I remember when he was drafted in the 10th round out of Clemson as a raw WR in Bill Walsh's first draft as the 49ers head coach.

Dwight didn't think he had a chance to make this roster so he brought his golf clubs and figured at least he would play Pebble Beach after he was waived and headed home to his next career. Well, he not only made the team but went on to become one of the franchise's greatest receivers.

Mike Shumann celebrates with Dwight Clark during a San Francisco 49ers game.

We shared a lot of laughs especially in the 1981 season when we won that first Super Bowl. As most of you know, when you win a World Championship you are bonded for life as a team -- and I think as a result, I think this is one of the reasons Dwight has so much support from his teammates.

He retired after 9 years with the team...had his number 87 retired and became the team's GM. He ended his NFL career in the Cleveland Browns front office with Carmen Policy.

What I always respected about this man was his determination to succeed despite his limitations. His stamina was unmatched -- as he would be fighting as hard in the 4th quarter of any game as he was in the first quarter.

This, I think will help him get through the ordeal he is facing.

Dwight as a person always had time for everyone.He was engaging, friendly, and always made the person he was dealing with feel special. His charm carried him through some tough times he dealt with earlier in his career, and afterward.

Talking with Dwight, he has seen six neurologists and three ALS specialist before finding out his fate. He's not alone. The NFL will be handing out their first concussion settlements this summer and I think the general public is going to be amazed at the names and quantity of players who will be dealing with ALS, Parkinson's, Dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

The big four are part of what all NFL players are going to have decide if they want to continue playing this game, when they know one of these, or several will be waiting at the end of your career. It could change the face of the sport -- with parents thinking twice about letting their children participate.It will also have current athlete think twice about long careers in such a violent sport. We are already seeing today's players cut their careers short with the information that is being released.

Dwight knows he is in the battle of his life for his life. The end game is not pretty. He wants his privacy, so he and his wife Kelly, and children can deal with this horrific disease.

But his spirit and will to carry on will take him as far as he can go. Unfortunately, there is no cure for ALS and Dwight's seems to be slow in developing. His sense of humor is intact as when I talked with him last. I told him he's not getting any strokes on the golf course just because he has ALS. We both laughed and starting talking our usual trash like it was old times.

Dwight doesn't want pity and encourages people to donate to ALS research so we can hopefully one day find a cause and cure. Life's not fair, but when it invades your family or circle of friends it becomes real and all we want to do is everything we can to help. I'm going through the concussion protocol as we speak, and Dwight -- even in his state, offered me help as he has seen specialist for all of the big four diseases. That is the kind of guy he is.

If you are a religious person, say a prayer for D.C. as he has given us so many great memories as a player and a human being.

There will never be another # 87 as his jersey has been retired and rightfully so.

Dwight I love you like a brother and wish nothing but the best for you and Kelly. Teammates for life!

Click here for more information on ALS research.

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